I plan on making a game based on/influenced by another game that is no longer being produced or worked on. I contacted the original maker of the game and they said that I could feel free to use the same mechanics of their game, but I could not copy the rule book in any way. How different do the rules/rule book have to be in order to avoid copyright infringement? I feel like it would be impossible to make a game with the same mechanics without some of the rulings being "copied". Would I just have to change the wording, or would that not be enough?
This could honestly depend heavily on many factors and I'm there's really not enough information or detail here to answer this.
1. Is the game's content/story based on the same content, story, or characters as the one you're "copying" or any other game? If so, this is more likely to violate the copyright of the other game.
2. Are the mechanics of the game unique enough to be protected by copyright law? That's unlikely, but still possible without further information, evaluation, and perhaps the expert opinion of game developers/players.
3. The rules of the game could also be unique enough that (especially when combine with the other game's mechanics) it is copyrightable. Changing the wording would likely not be enough depending on the other factors. Again this is tough to answer without more information, and perhaps could come down the expert opinion(s) of video game developers/players at a trial.
Your best option if you're determined to make a game is to either: 1. make a completely new game without relying on anything from the other game, or 2. consult plenty of game "experts" and intellectual property attorneys and experts, make the game according to their advice, and hope that their advice is enough to make the game different enough to not infringe on another game's intellectual property. Either way be prepared to spend a good amount of money to hire quality intellectual property attorneys.
Please note, I'm an attorney but I'm not your attorney. I'm likely not licensed in the state you're in or need legal advice on, and anything I post is for informational purposes only, and is not and should NOT be considered legal advice. My response(s) does NOT create an attorney-client relationship between myself and you, or anyone else. You should always seek out your own independent attorney who can further advise you on your matters or issues.
This isn't a guarantee. The issue would be whether the accused work is substantially similar to the original parts of the copyrighted work. A good theory applies 'abstraction, flitration, comparison'. Put away the original. Write down the 'ideas'. Those aren't copyrightable. From your list of ideas write 'new' content - your own words. The, when a court does comparison you assert the defense 'similarity is only in uncopyrightable ideas, so no infringement.'
This answer is written to explain situations which may come up involving intellectual property law issues. It does not give specific legal advice about specific fact situations. If you have a specific fact situation in mind you should ask for professional legal advice about the relevant facts. Seemingly minor changes in facts may change a legal opinion dramatically. Space here does not permit an explanation of all the variables in complex legal areas. Dave Brezina is an Illinois lawyer and his profession is regulated under the authority of the Supreme Court of Illinois. Although he represents clients nationally and internationally, his law practice is performed in Illinois and is not subject to regulation by other states. Dave Brezina is also a Registered Patent Attorney and a patent practice is regulated by the US Patent and Trademark Office a Federal agency and is not subject to regulation by the states. The firm, Ladas & Parry, LLP, has attorneys admitted and offices in at least Illinois, New York and California. Finally, do not post confidential information. There is no an attorney client relationship created simply by correspondence or communication with the author of this site.
Generally, you want to avoid, at least, the wording, and the look and feel of the other game.
You should discuss with an intellectual property attorney in a private consultation.
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I agree with Attorney Brezina. You are best to start from a clean slate.
Before you commit to anything, I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Legal, LLC on the basis of this posting.
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